Urban Institute
Principal Policy Associate, Research to Action Lab and Justice Policy Center; Managing Director, Pay for Success Initiative
Urban Institute
Senior Research Associate

New Administrative Data Pilot Award will move pay for success forward

October 26, 2016 - 2:09pm

Following the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh earlier this month, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced the Urban Institute as a recipient of a new Social Innovation Fund (SIF) Pay for Success (PFS) Administrative Data Pilot (ADP) grant. The $1.05 million award from the SIF will be matched by additional funding for a total award to Urban of $2.1 million. We are proud to be partnering with Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy on this work, and to be joining a prestigious group of awardees that includes the Stanford University Center for Income Inequality in partnership with Third Sector Capital Partners, and the Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business

These resources will be used to provide training and technical assistance (TTA) on the full spectrum of data issues related to PFS—to help move projects from planning to implementation to evaluation using the most rigorous methods possible. A goal of Urban and AISP’s work is to help jurisdictions build local capacity to share and use data for PFS projects, as well as for general program development and evaluation. The grant will build upon Urban’s existing Pay for Success Initiative and the National Neighborhoods Indicators Partnership—a collaboration with partners in 30 cities dedicated to building local capacity to develop and use neighborhood-level information systems.

The SIF’s PFS Administrative Data Pilot (ADP) award speaks directly to a major challenge facing PFS projects in the development pipeline, as well as many other complex social policy interventions: they rely on detailed administrative data at every step of the process, in order to identify target populations and policy problems, to capture service delivery, and to track the impacts of interventions on individuals or families. This includes demographic characteristics, risk profiles or service needs, information on services received, and of course outcomes over time. For example, an intervention that provides housing assistance to homeless families with children may expect outcomes found in data collected and maintained by local school districts, by the child welfare system, or in unemployment insurance data. 

Ideally, the data systems containing these information are linked and regularly accessed to generate cross-agency information designed to capture outcomes and aid future, as well as present, decision-making. But relatively few places have the capacity for seamless data and information sharing. More often, data are siloed in administrative systems and in agencies dedicated to discrete aspects the social, health, or other service delivery systems. Or, data may have been shared in snapshots or for specific purposes, in ways that don’t fully address the needs of developing PFS projects. Most places fall somewhere in between. For those places engaged in pay for success activities, administrative data systems at the “best-case” end of the spectrum—or at least establishing a commitment to sharing data across key systems—are key to making evidence based-decisions at the beginning of a project and measuring success at the end.

Over the next three years, Urban will use the ADP award to provide training and technical assistance to a set of up to eight aspiring or established pay for success projects—with a  specific focus on helping projects overcome the complex challenges associated with identifying, accessing, and analyzing existing administrative data. This includes support  tackling the many barriers that are known to slow or complicate PFS projects: identifying where data live and how to access them; navigating complex legal and regulatory requirements around data sharing; establishing data sharing agreements and exchanging data securely; linking and cleaning administrative data; and analyzing data to inform PFS project development.

Urban’s Pay for Success Initiative has developed a framework for TTA that leverages the breadth and depth of Urban’s experts to help places understand PFS and the existing evidence bases behind interventions, how that evidence base may relate to local contexts, and how to plan for and evaluate program success. AISP will provide a key component of the support for the selected projects, by hosting webinars and facilitating learning communities where awardees will receive training and exchange lessons learned around building integrated data systems for PFS project development.

In the coming months, we will launch a national search for places in the PFS planning process that are facing administrative data challenges. Eligible applicants may be from across the US, and include nonprofit organizations, public or nonprofit universities, state and local governments, tribes, as well as faith-based organizations. For more information please contact [email protected].



The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. The SIF empowers organizations to identify and support sustainable solutions that are already making a significant impact in transforming communities. For more information, visit nationalservice.gov.

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